It will be business as usual for the Portland Pirates next season regardless of what happens with the impending change in ownership or location of the NHL parent Phoenix Coyotes.
The NHL, which has operated the Coyotes since buying the team out of U.S. Bankruptcy Court in 2009, has approved the sale of the team to Renaissance Sports and Entertainment, but the deal hinges on whether the prospective buyers can reach a lease agreement with the financially-strapped city of Glendale, Ariz., for Jobing.Com Arena, home of the Coyotes.
During a press conference last week before the start of the Stanley Cup finals, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the time had come for some decisions to be made to either keep the Coyotes in metropolitan Phoenix or find a new home for the NHL franchise.
The Glendale City Council is expected to vote on the proposed lease agreement on Tuesday and the NHL Board of Governors is scheduled to meet two days later.
Whatever is decided, the Portland Pirates will remain the affiliate of an NHL team.
“If no decision gets made, and the NHL continues to run it, it will be another year of what we’ve already experienced for the last two (seasons), and we’ll just continue to do what we’ve been doing,” Portland Pirates CEO/managing owner Brian Petrovek said.
Three years remain on the original five-year affiliation agreement between the Pirates and the Coyotes.
“If this ownership group has success with the lease with the building in Glendale, then the affiliation agreement would carry over to that group without adjustments unless that group wanted to sit down and talk about a change in the (financial) equation, the conditions or the length of it,” Petrovek said.
In 2011, Buffalo ended its affiliation with the Pirates earlier than scheduled when new Sabres owner Terry Pegula bought the Rochester Americans and moved its AHL affiliate back to upstate New York.
“We had to pivot and make adjustments,” Petrovek said.
As many as four teams expressed interest in becoming the Pirates’ new NHL parent before the Coyotes signed on.
“I don’t expect that to happen with the new owners, but if they call, we’ll have a conversation,” Petrovek said. “We’re one of 30 active franchises in the (AHL). If something occurred, we’d have to figure out which seat we sit in when the music stops and operate a franchise with somebody else.”
During the last nine seasons, the Pirates have been affiliated with the Washington Capitals, Anaheim Ducks, Buffalo and Phoenix.
“To date, our (ownership) group has had four different affiliates and each of them has been better than the one before for a whole host of reasons,” Petrovek said. “The business evolves. Everybody has a different sweet spot.”
During the past two weeks, the NHL signed Phoenix GM Don Maloney and assistant general manager Brad Treliving to long-term contracts.
“We’re just doing the things we would normally do at this time of the year,” said Treliving, who serves as Pirates’ general manager on the operations’ side. “We’re getting ready for the draft and free agency.”
The NHL will hold its draft June 30 at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. The period for the signing free agents starts July 5.
Treliving said the Coyotes will hold their development camp July 8-12 at the Ice Den, the team’s training facility in Scottsdale, Ariz.
During a recent telephone interview, Treliving wouldn’t comment upon the pending sale of the Coyotes.
“The sale of the team is above my pay grade,” he said.
Currently, the Pirates seem more concerned about its marketing campaign for next season rather than possible changes regarding their NHL parent.
“We don’t think about it,” Petrovek said. “With us, it’s just getting ready for another season with more things on our plate.”
Because of the ongoing renovations at the Cumberland County Civic Center, the Pirates will play their first 12 home games next season at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston. The Pirates aren’t expected to play the first of their 26-game home schedule at the Civic Center until mid-January.
“Right now, we’re working hard to make sure we sell out those 12 games in Lewiston,” Petrovek said. “Next fall, we’ll work on selling tickets for when we return to the Civic Center.”
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at [email protected]